It is 9 am on Sunday. The tart is done, photographed and in the fridge awaiting delivery. I am eagerly awaiting my brewing coffee. I would be perched before the machine, salivating and humming, but instead of degrading myself so early on such a loverly fall day, I have forced myself to sit here and type. Words. That enter. My mind.
My galley kitchen — actually, I think it’s a half galley, more of a lower-case L shape than a U or a shape that utilizes both sides of the space. Here, I offer a panoramic view:
It does not look like this now. It is more like a pastry explosion, with strips of parchment, pieces of caramelized apple, barvarois trimmings, flakes of sablé. When I finish all the elements of a cake at 3 am, have a quick nap on the couch, then spring into action in the morning for assembly, I am often too excited (and admittedly rushed, but only because I don’t want to be late, I tend to finish up with many hours to spare) to tidy as I go. Then I fret over the things I don’t like, but convince myself that I am “insane” and “no-one will notice or care” and I need to live with cake that looks like cake rather than the photoshopped perfections that are so rampant these days.
So my form needs a little work. That’s why I am here. As a Canadian, there are more jobs that require a pastry chef to create more…rustic confections. That is to say, with this tart in mind, that a plain-Jane double-crust apple pie is in greater demand then anything with the words “Bavarian Cream”. I don’t make the delicate and somewhat more finicky French pastry elements where I work. I make pies. And scones. And cinnamon buns. All kinds of very North American treats. I enjoy it, it pay the bills (aaand the student loan), but I am terrified of losing my fancy French training.
And that’s how we arrived here, with the Apple Millefeuille.
The “mille” refers to the thousand layers a properly made puff dough will have – the “feuilles” – sheets of which are enrobed with pastry cream or jam, stacked, and glazed with liquid fondant. Personally I find traditional Millefeuilles a tad too sweet and very messy to eat, which is why it’s somewhat ironic that they are found more often than not at standing-room formal functions. You can always tell who has indulged by the snow-fall of feuilletée on his or her suit and dress.
Migoya offers a clean alternative to the messy puff. His millefeuille takes apples, peeled, cored, and sliced, layered with cinnamon and sugar, and slow-baked to soften and caramelize them into a beautiful slab of concentrated apple-hug with the burnt sienna hue of maple syrup. He places this a-top a Bavarian cream, which is nestled in a simple French crust.
Here, I have layered the apples (15) with sprinklings of cinnamon and brown sugar (3/4 C), 4 layers. Not gonna lie, I had to read the instructions several times to figure out how they were supposed to be layered, but I still didn’t do it right. In my defense, I was in a hurry as I just needed to get the apples pressing in the fridge so I could continue on with my over-scheduled Friday night, but I know this is a silly stance because in my heart I know a pastry chef should never have to rush. Fast and efficient is a-okay, but rushing is a no-no.
I tell myself that once the apples have baked down, there will be fewer…gaps. I line the top with saran, put two baking pans identical to the apple vessel on top, weight it with two 8lb dumbells and set off for my glass of wine and pint of beer because I’ve eaten too many apple trimmings and rogue slices to accommodate dinner.
The apples did not release as much liquid as I thought, and I did not save it like Migoya suggested because I knew it would just plant itself among the other inhabitants of the pastry cemetery in the back of my fridge and I’d start swearing at it come February. I must reiterate: my professionalism abounds at work, but at home I’m a mess. I’m working on it.
The next day I procrastinate by going to the market, picking up more expensive pastry utilities at the commercial supply shop, and go to the video store to pick up the box-set of Twin Peaks I’ve ordered so I have something awesome and fall-ish to watch while I wait for the apples to bake for 8 hours.
8 HOURS. Good thing I get home at…6pm?
Apples go in oven – non-convection gas, start at 300, end up reducing to 250 after 4.5 hrs.
Here are the results after 6 hours.
Madagascar Vanilla Bavarois — adapted from The Modern Café’s Tahitian Vanilla Cream
210g 35% Cream
1 vanilla pod or 1T vanilla paste
450g 35% Cream, whipped to soft peaks and chilled
30g Gelatin – I used Knox as my gold-leaf options are limited, and since Knox sets up firmer than gold-leaf, I reduced the original recipe, but I had to change whole recipe based on the quantity I was making, and the quantity of cream I had, which, as it turned out, was not enough. Ha. Ha ha *sigh*.
Have a square (or circular if you wish) pastry mold or ring on a Silpat or lined with saran (or acetate if you’re fancy — I am not, because there are few pastry stores here, and I don’t actually PAY for the internet, so I don’t order things on-line. Yes I’m a luddite. Yes I should go back in time and live happily there. Again, working on it.)
*Cooking a Crème Anglaise*
Place cream and milk in heavy pot, medium heat. Add over half the sugar and stir to encourage dissolution. With your yolks in another bowl, add the rest of your sugar and whisk until they’ve lightened in colour. When your milk simmers, pour a quarter (or so) of the milk into the yolks, whisk briskly, then add the yolks to your pot. Stir evenly and quickly with a spatula or wooden spoon (no whisking!) until mixture reaches 82 degrees or you can run a line through the mixture when it coats the back of your spoon.
Remove from heat! Pour through a strainer. And for god’s sake, if you over cook it, don’t put it in a blender. If you always strain your Anglaise, it will be fine. At this point you should ice-bath it to cool it down.
Once cooled, bloom your gelatin in a quarter of a cup of Anglaise, or soak them in water if you are using leaf gelatin (but remember to squeeze the water out) and warm about a cup of Anglaise over a hot-water bath. Add the bloomed gelatin then stir it in to the reserved Anglaise. This should now be about 30 degrees, or cooler then body-temp, but not cold. If this is cold you’ll run the risk of setting the gelatin when you add it to the whipped cream, and then you’ll have lumps. You’ll cry, and I’ll laugh, as a Chef instructor of mine used to say.
Okay, here goes: Add a bit of the whipped cream to the Anglaise, stir it around, then add the Anglaise to the whipped cream and whip it quickly with a whisk to incorporate everything evenly before the gelatin starts setting. Pour it into a prepared pan and freeze. Lick the spoon because you’re at home and no one is watching.
I hesitate to post the recipe here. See the About section for my reason. Martha Stewart gives us this Sablée recipe:
225g butter, soft
3/4c. Icing sugar
300g all purpose flour
pinch of salt
Cream butter and sugar till fluffed, sift salt and flour, add on low mixer or by hand until combined. Wrap and chill well before rolling.
OR you can make it Gluten-Free with this recipe, which I adapted from ________. Not a Sablée technique wise, but the result is very good:
1c Brown Rice flour
2 T Cane Sugar
1/4 t salt
2 T Ice Water (I needed more…)
3/4 c Butter – cold
In food processor, combine dry and pulse. Add cubed butter, pulse until an almond-flour texture. Add egg. Pulse. Add 1/2 water, pulse. Add more until it just comes together, but not moist. Chill before shaping (may be difficult to roll…)
Bake frozen crusts at 325F, but don’t brown them or they will be too difficult to cut with a fork. I admit, I don’t own pie weights or even dry beans, so silly me, my square shell collapsed on one side. The extra round one I made was fine, but (obviously) shrank too much and my round version was an epic fail as I didn’t have a cutter the right size for the shrunken crust.
I don’t know why I didn’t take amazing photos of this. Next time, I promise I will photograph disasters. The square one I salvaged by cutting off the sides, so the end result was more like a giant sugar cookie than a tart, but I don’t actually care, it looked awesome.
I trimmed the frozen cream and unmolded my apples (which I froze after they cooled from 6hrs in the oven — the batch was small and they were the colour I was going for so I didn’t give them the full time) and trimmed them.
I carefully stacked them. The apples shrank a lot, which I anticipated, and so I put two layers on the cream to a) go with the proportions in the book and b) so the cream doesn’t over-power the star, the slow baked apples.
Woohoo. I don’t have a problem with this result. It looks a little shabby, I had to do some cutting and pasting with the apples, but overall I’m happy. I topped it with dried vanilla pod, tiny heritage apple I sugared and torched, some african mace, and gold maple nuggets because edible gold-leaf is not available.
What does it taste like?
Tart Tatin à la mode, but not sweet in all the right ways. If I wasn’t giving this away, I would plate it with a smear of caramel pumpkin butter (recipe later if you’re nice) and apple cider reduction.
Up next: The Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie…